Amber Tucker's Reviews > Existence Costs

Existence Costs by Brad Simkulet
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Aug 06, 10

bookshelves: to-come-back-to, shelf-of-honour, postmoddy
Recommended for: People who like philosophy or 'thinking' literature
Read from July 20 to 24, 2010 — I own a copy, read count: 1-2ish

This book has a reputation for depressing content, but I couldn't agree less. Not because it's cheerful; no, yet the compassion with which each and every story is recorded proves that, behind these stories of cost, there exists an unquenchably courageous spirit. That of the author, and that of humanity in all its wondrous, horrendous, and unknowing potential. If you find it 'depression', you're not thinking far enough. The whole thing is very concise, which means there's a lot more consideration necessarily involved to 'get' what you can. But this book is highly worth reading, and worth thinking about. I know I will be going back to peruse it, many times.
Rather than real, in-depth analysis, I'm going to build this review around a few of my book-inspired thoughts...

First thing to get out here is my sense about the introduction. On its own, it's a spectacular sort of essay. However, it seems to bear very little relation to the book. That is, it's loaded with well-presented insights, yet I can't easily transfer many of these to the book itself. I hope this is not because I'm philosophically incompetent compared to the average fellow reader - I can't be the only one who's a little confused at the loftiness of this introduction. It certainly provides one frame of reference, and I'm not saying it's invalid - just, personally speaking, it's not the frame through which I best understand Brad's stories. Luckily, the stories more than stand on their own.

You'll find yourself smiling, laughing on occasion, crying or near tears, as I was in Calvary: A Silent Film . A man is living with his small daughter on the street, struggling to create a life for her as his own is smashed irreparably. Dean's not a bad man - it's hard to imagine a more gentle and loving father and husband, as we are privy to his haunting memories. Dean's a great guy, and Brett is a beautiful little girl, and we feel the beauty of every homeless, teenage, or otherwise marginalized person who holds up a Bible verse throughout – the genuinely voiceless members of our society, those about whom we'd prefer to forget. The irony of their 'speech' – spitting back at us the very commands of compassion that we profess to follow – and their inescapable presence is disturbing, in the most imperative way. Genuine love is something we scarcely know how to invoke or deal with, in the 'real world.' With the loss of his wife and son, home and career, the loving mirror Dean lived in was shattered. He is broken not by lack of courage or resourcefulness, but by the strength of his love and the fact that it is nevermore reflected back upon him or his daughter. Two people simply cannot their own world make. And so this thing, love, which we can't live without is one of the things that costs us the most – in its power and its rarity.

I love that three of the chapters (? stories?) are written as scripts or screenplays; it's a format most of us are unacquainted with, but it's so much fun to read that I think more people should give it a try. The scene is instantly before your mind's eye and you simply watch as the story unfolds. You get to discover your inner cinema screen and it's hugely rewarding.

The vivid, fast-paced writing lets us feel, lets us be, other than ourselves and feel the urgency of the connections between people. There is no separation. The stunning awake segments come together into a Holocaust-esque story of several undercover fighters, in principle against the oppressors of humankind, but mainly these characters are struggling with their priorities. The worst battle, maybe. Before you judge Kurt and Max, think: in their place, would you really do anything differently?

You can take something different from each of these stories; I took more from certain ones than others. The strongest truth I found was in the confluence of violence and feeling, which are diametrically opposed - violence seeks to kill feeling, but for the reader of EC, its darkness and fear and all portrayed ugliness is the key to reawakening our innate but deadened sense of empathy. What are we as human beings? Are we deceptive? Are we selfish? Are we too often eager to let ourselves remain blind? Undeniably we are.

And yet, as awake i and awake vi (at the opening and closing of the book) imply, life goes on. We are all asked to make of this fact what we will. Life is creation and destruction, laughter and tears, and very often all at once, blurring 'reality' beyond importance (I think of Wyrm as I type this). What lies at the heart of it, the mundane and the possibly mystical? Ourselves - our selves, our consciousness. Each of these stories gives us a different chance to recall, and awaken.

So please don't turn away because this isn't The Story of Dolly Darling in Fairyland. Dolly has to look up, too, sooner or later, and gaze upon what is gritty, what is true, about her place here. That's how we become awake . Whether or not you'd say human energies are typically misdirected – alongside cruelty and hatred, yes, the only other factor keeping us going, keeping us living and dying alike, is the force of our own love. Brutal and beautiful, that's one truth in EC which the author asks us to remember. Thank you, Brad.
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07/20/2010 page 25
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Brad Thanks for your thoughtful review, Amber. It means a lot to me.


Amber Tucker You're very welcome! BTW, I just edited it to remove an unfinished line there at the end of one paragraph- whoopsie. I'd decided my bit about the 'implications' of the final chapter weren't important. But I was very glad to review it. :)


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